For months I scoured tips, quarries, derelict land, and gathered the parts of my Frankenbike. The wheels were the hardest to find, because once twisted it was all but impossible to hammer them back to true. Finally, one of my mates swapped me my entire birds egg collection, fifty-eight eggs, for a back wheel that only needed some metal polish and a couple of new spokes, and suddenly I had everything I needed.
In the weed-strewn back garden of 14 flat 1 Barratts Road, I lovingly assembled my steed. Wheels to the sky, the bike resting on handle bars and saddle, I dabbed paint, kerplunked Dad’s ancient oil can at the relevant bits, painstakingly straightened spokes with a pair of old pliers and a steel rule, tightened nuts, adjusted the chain. I even spent my saved-up pocket money horde – almost five whole pounds – on a set of smart new mudguards with black and white checkered finish.
Finally dawned the day when the final nut and bolt was tightened, the oil can had given up its last drips onto the chain and bearings. The mudguards flashed in the pale sunlight. I wheeled the bicycle to the front of the flats and parked it carefully in the gutter. Mom, Dad, Roy and a couple of neighbors came out to witness the boy and his homemade bike. I swung a cavalier leg over the cross bar, mounted the saddle, smiling happily and pushed the pedals forward.
The pedals rotated just fine but I didn’t move. The pedals spun forward with no resistance and I heard the sound of the chain freewheeling, as it should if I was pedaling backwards. When I stopped and pedaled backwards the bicycle wobbled backward a few yards before I fell over sideways and skinned hands and knees on the road surface. I lay there, biting my lip, refusing to cry, and it occurred to me that in a city famous for making cars, motorbikes, and bicycles, a city whose coat of arms bore the motto “Forward” I had just successfully managed to construct the first bicycle that could only be pedaled backwards!
Causes Luke James Supports
Doctors Without Borders